An Indigenous Model of Education
The Learning Technology (LTC) has been a leader in exploring the ways that technology can enhance learning opportunities for students in rural isolated projects. Schools in Native American communities, like schools everywhere, are incorporating technology into the curriculum as fast as budgets allow. Will this technology, which brings the world into the classroom and opens the classroom to the world, be the final means of acculturalization for Native American students, or will it provide a way to preserve, enrich and tell others of their unique heritage?
The Learning Technology Center explored the ways technology can be used in Native American schools can use technology to develop culturally responsive curriculum in the Four Directions Project. From 1995 to 2001, through a grant funded by a U.S. Department of Education, the Learning Technology Center with other partners helped 19 Native American schools in ten states overcome their remoteness and preserve their cultural traditions by providing training in the use of computer and telecommunications technology and its integration throughout school curricula. Other partners in the Four Directions project included the University of New Mexico, the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University, the Heard Museum and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
Dr. Paul E. Resta helped the schools plan and create collaborative learning environments. Schools were equipped with Teachnet, collaborative communications software which provides email, conferencing and bulletin board capabilities.
Graduate level courses in curriculum design were provided for Four Directions teachers via the World Wide Web and Teachnet. Approximately 120 teachers took these classes, many of them multiple times.
Native students were trained in digital photography, virtual reality imaging and other multimedia techniques in order to create cultural "virtual museums." The first virtual museum project created a Virtual Tour of the National Museum of the American Indian, as seen through the eyes of Native American children. The project was one of fifty finalists in the Global Junior Challenge, an Internet media contest hosted by the city of Rome, Italy. Four Directions has promoted school-museum partnerships for virtual museum projects, and by May 2001, ten Four Directions schools will have engaged in virtual museum projects with nine museums and two university archeology departments.
Dr. Loriene Roy helped the schools develop oral history projects for the schools and brought library expertise to the team. She began a family reading project, "If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything," with Four Directions schools which has received its own with funding from the American Library Association and the Tocker Foundation. She has used TeachNet to conduct live chats between students in the Four Directions schools on reading and story-telling. The "scary story" chats at Halloween have garnered lively participation from students of all ages.
An Electronic Mentoring database was established that paired volunteer Native American mentors with specific schools or students and facilitated their communication.
The LTC team participated in two Access Native American Net Days. In April 1998, 28 schools of the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, the Pueblos of New Mexico, the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi were connected to the Internet and provided with new computers. Team members were on hand to provide technical support at Red Water School on the Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi and at Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico. The second Native American Net Day, in September 1999, celebrated the wiring of the remaining Four Directions schools and many more Bureau of Indian Affairs schools.
The Four Directions partners worked hard to provide technology and curriculum training for the teacher participants at the annual Summer Institutes conducted at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. But during the last year of the project, three Four Directions schools conducted their own summer institutes, and the Pueblo of Laguna won an Intel grant to create a technology training center for American Indian schools. These changes mark the success of Four Directions in the dissemination of the Indigenous Model of Education. Another mark of success for the project is a database of culturally responsive lessons on the Four Directions web site. These lessons were devised by the Four Directions teachers at the Summer Institutes and on-site workshops.
The LTC will continue its work with Indian schools and other schools in rural isolated areas to continue to explore the ways technology can help bridge the digital divide.
Learn more about the project by visiting these Four Directions web sites:
- Four Directions Web Site
- The Virtual Tour of the National Museum of the American Indian
- Virtual Museum Projects in Native America (Paper published in ERIC/IT Update December 2002 :: Will Require Acrobat Reader to view)
- Virtual Museum Collaborations for Cultural Revitalization: The Four Directions Model (Paper presented to the Museums and the Web Conference)
- If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything